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Europe

Czech Prime Minister Steps Down

Czech Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla resigned Saturday from his posts as head of government and head of the Social Democratic party, which suffered a bruising defeat in EU elections earlier this month.

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Bearing the consequences for his party's falling popularity.

Earlier on Saturday, Spidla only narrowly won a confidence vote within his party, which suffered a embarrassing rout in European Parliament elections earlier this month.

The move signals the downfall of the center-left coalition government led by the Social Democrats (CSSD) since 2002. Pressure had been mounting on Spidla from within the CSSD to step down as party chairman in favor of Stanislav Gross, the deputy prime minister and interior minister, as the party's popularity continues to plummet.

In the new EU member state's election on June 13, the CSSD finished fifth and won just two of the country's 24 seats.

According to a poll released this week, it would win less than 14 percent of votes if elections were held now, while the main opposition party, the euroskeptic Civic Democrats (ODS), would win over 40 percent and the Communists 18 percent.

The party has been split into factions over the austerity measures undertaken by Spidla as part of reforms to ready the Czech Republic for European Union membership.

In the confidence vote Saturday, 103 members of the party's 181-member executive committee voted against him, just six short of the votes needed to oust him from the leadership. He received 66 of the 169 valid votes in his favor.

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